Playing the Infinite Game

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The following is adapted from What
Technology Wants
, published by Viking/Penguin, used with permission.


There are two kinds of games in the universe: finite games
and infinite games. A finite game is played to win. Card games, poker rounds,
games of chance, bets, sports such as football, board games such as Monopoly,
races, marathons, puzzles, Tetris, Rubik's Cube, Scrabble, sudoku, online games
such as World of Warcraft, and Halo — all are finite games. The game ends
when someone wins.

An infinite game, on the other hand, is played to keep the
game going. It does not terminate because there is no winner.

Finite games require rules that remain constant. The game
fails if the rules change during the game. Altering rules during play is
unforgivable, the very definition of unfairness. Great effort, then, is taken
in a finite game to spell out the rules beforehand and enforce them during the

An infinite game, however, can keep going only by changing
its rules. To maintain open-endedness, the game must play with its rules.

A finite game such as baseball or chess or Super Mario must
have boundaries — spatial, temporal, or behavioral. So big, this long, do or
don't do that.

An infinite game has no boundaries. James Carse, the
theologian who developed these ideas in his brilliant treatise Finite and Infinite Games, says, "Finite
players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries."

Evolution, life, mind, and the technium are infinite games.
Their game is to keep the game going. To keep all participants playing as long
as possible. They do that, as all infinite games do, by playing around with the
rules of play. The evolution of evolution is just that kind of play.

Unreformed weapon technologies generate finite games. They
produce winners (and losers) and cut off options. Finite games are dramatic;
think sports and war. We can think of hundreds of more exciting stories about
two guys fighting than we can about two guys at peace. But the problem with
those exciting 100 stories about two guys fighting is that they all lead to the
same end — the demise of one or both of them — unless at some point they turn and
cooperate. However, the one boring story about peace has no end. It can lead to
a thousand unexpected stories — maybe the two guys become partners and build a
new town or discover a new element or write an amazing opera. They create
something that will become a platform for future stories. They are playing an
infinite game. Peace is summoned all over the world because it births
increasing opportunities and, unlike a finite game, contains infinite

The things in life we love most — including life itself — are
infinite games. When we play the game of life, or the game of the technium,
goals are not fixed, the rules are unknown and shifting. How do we proceed? A
good choice is to increase choices. As individuals and as a society we can
invent methods that will generate as many new good possibilities as possible. A good possibility is one that will
generate more good possibilities . . . and so on in the paradoxical infinite
game. The best "open-ended" choice is one that leads to the most subsequent
"openended" choices. That recursive tree is the infinite game of technology.

The goal of the infinite game is to keep playing — to explore
every way to play the game, to include all games, all possible players, to
widen what is meant by playing, to spend all, to hoard nothing, to seed the
universe with improbable plays, and if possible to surpass everything that has
come before.

In his mythic book The
Singularity Is Near
, Ray Kurzweil, serial inventor, technology enthusiast,
and unabashed atheist, announces: "Evolution moves toward greater complexity,
greater elegance, greater knowledge, greater intelligence, greater beauty,
greater creativity, and greater levels of subtle attributes such as love. In
every monotheistic tradition God is likewise described as all of these
qualities, only without limitation. . . . So evolution moves inexorably toward
this conception of God, although never quite reaching this ideal."

If there is a God, the arc of the technium is aimed right at
it. I'll retell the Great Story of this arc because it points to an infinite

The story and game begin at the beginning. As the
undifferentiated energy at the big bang is cooled by the expanding space of the
universe, it coalesces into measurable entities, and, over time, the particles
condense into atoms. Further expansion and cooling allows complex molecules to
form, which self-assemble into self-reproducing entities. With each tick of the
clock, increasing complexity is added to these embryonic organisms, increasing
the speed at which they change. As evolution evolves, it keeps piling on
different ways to adapt and learn until eventually the minds of animals are
caught in self-awareness. This self-awareness thinks up more minds, and
together a universe of minds transcends all previous limits. The destiny of
this collective mind is to expand imagination in all directions until it is no
longer solitary but reflects the infinite. Everything present in the universe
is a winner.

There is even a modern theology that postulates that God,
too, changes. Without splitting too many theological hairs, this theory, called
Process Theology, describes God as a process, a perfect process, if you will.
In this theology, God is less a remote, monumental, gray-bearded hacker genius
and more of an ever-present flux, a movement, a process, a primary self-made
becoming. The ongoing self-organized mutability of life, evolution, mind, and
the technium is a reflection of God's becoming. God-as-Verb unleashes a set of
rules that unfold into an infinite game, a game that continually loops back
into itself.

I bring up God here at the end because it seems unfair to
speak about autocreation without mentioning God — the paragon of autocreation.
The only other alternative to an endless string of creations triggered by
previous creation is a creation that emerges from its own self-causation. That
prime self-causation, which is not preceded but instead first makes itself
before it makes either time or nothingness, is the most logical definition of
God. This view of a mutable God does not escape the paradoxes of self-creation
that infect all levels of self-organization, but rather it embraces them as
necessary paradoxes. God or not, self-creation is a mystery.

In one sense, this is a story about continuous autocreation
(with or without the concept of a prime autocreation). The tale tells how the
ratcheting bootstrapping of increasing complexity, expanding possibilities, and
spreading sentience — which we now see in the technium and beyond — is driven by
forces that were inherent within the first nanospeck of existence and how this
seed of flux has unfolded itself in such a manner that it can, in theory, keep
unfolding and making itself for a very long time.

A single thread of selfgeneration ties the cosmos, the bios,
and the technos together into one creation. Life is less a miracle than a
necessity for matter and energy. The technium is less an adversary to life than
its extension. Humans are not the culmination of this trajectory but an
intermediary, smack in the middle between the born and the made.

For several thousand years, humans have looked to the
organic world, the world of the living, for clues about the nature of creation
and even of a creator. Life was a reflection of the divine. Humans in
particular were deemed to be made in the image of God. But if you believe
humans are made in the image of God, the autocreator, then we have done well,
because we have just birthed our own creation: the technium. Many, including
many believers in God, would call that hubris. Compared to what has come before
us, our accomplishments are puny.

"As we turn from the galaxies to the swarming cells of our
own being, which toil for something, some entity beyond their grasp, let us
remember man, the self-fabricator who came across an ice age to look into the
mirrors and magic of science. Surely he did not come to see himself or his wild
visage only. He came because he is at heart a listener and a searcher for some
transcendent realm beyond himself." That's Loren Eiseley, anthropologist and
author, ruminating on what he calls our "immense journey" so far under the

The bleak message of the stars in their overwhelming
infinitude is that we are nothing. It is hard to argue with 500 billion
galaxies, each with a billion stars. In the mists of the endless cosmos, our
brief blink in an obscure corner is nothing at all.

Yet the fact that there is something in one corner that
sustains itself against the starry vastness, the fact that there is anything
bootstrapping at all, is an argument against the nihilism of the stars. The
smallest thought could not exist unless the entire universe and the laws of
physics were in some way encouraging it. The existence of a single rosebud, a
single oil painting, a single parade of costumed hominins strolling down a
street of bricks, a single glowing screen waiting for input, or a single book
on the nature of our creations requires life-friendly attributes baked deeply
into the primeval laws of being. "The universe knew we were coming," says
Freeman Dyson. And if the cosmic laws are biased to produce one bit of life and
mind and technology, then one bit will flow after another. Our immense journey
is a trace of tiny, improbable events stacked into a series of inevitabilities.

The technium is the way the universe has engineered its own
selfawareness. Carl Sagan put it memorably: "We are starstuff pondering the
stars." But by far humanity's greatest, most immense journey is not the long
trek from star dust to wakefulness but the immense journey we have in front of
us. The arc of complexity and open-ended creation in the last four billion
years is nothing compared to what lies ahead.

The universe is mostly empty because it is waiting to be
filled with the products of life and the technium, with questions and problems
and the thickening relations between bits that we call con scientia — shared knowledge — or consciousness.

And whether we like it or not, we stand at the fulcrum of
the future. We are in part responsible for the evolution of this planet
proceeding onward.

About 2,500 years ago most of humanity's major religions
were set in motion in a relatively compact period. Confucius, Lao-tzu, Buddha,
Zoroaster, the authors of the Upanishads, and the Jewish patriarchs all lived
within a span of 20 generations. Only a few major religions have been born
since then. Historians call that planetary fluttering the Axial Age. It was as
if everyone alive awoke simultaneously and, in one breath, set out in search of
their mysterious origins. Some anthropologists believe the Axial Age awakening
was induced by the surplus abundance that agriculture created, enabled by
massive irrigation and waterworks around the world.

It would not surprise me if we saw another axial awakening
someday, powered by another flood of technology. I find it hard to believe that
we could manufacture robots that actually worked and not have them disturb our
ideas of religion and God. Someday we will make other minds, and they will
surprise us. They will think of things we never could have imagined, and if we
give these minds their full embodiment, they will call themselves children of
God, and what will we say? When we alter the genetics in our veins, will this
not reroute our sense of a soul? Can we cross over into the quantum realm,
where one bit of matter can be in two places at once, and still not believe in

Look what is coming: Technology is stitching together all
the minds of the living, wrapping the planet in a vibrating cloak of electronic
nerves, entire continents of machines conversing with one another, the whole
aggregation watching itself through a million cameras posted daily. How can
this not stir that organ in us that is sensitive to something larger than

For as long as the wind has blown and the grass grown,
people have sat beneath trees in the wilderness for enlightenment — to see God.
They have looked to the natural world for a hint of their origins. In the
filigree of fern and feather they find a shadow of an infinite source. Even
those who have no use for God study the evolving world of the born for clues to
why we are here. For most people, nature is either a very happy long-term accident
or a very detailed reflection of its creator. For the latter, every species can
be read as a four-billion-year-long encounter with God.

Yet we can see more of God in a cell phone than in a tree
frog. The phone extends the frog's four billion years of learning and adds the
open-ended investigations of six billion human minds. Someday we may believe
the most convivial technology we can make is not a testament to human ingenuity
but a testimony of the holy. As the technium's autonomy rises, we have less influence
over the made. It follows its own momentum begun at the big bang. In a new
axial age, it is possible the greatest technological works will be considered a
portrait of God rather than of us. In addition to holding spiritual retreats in
redwood groves, we may surrender ourselves in the labyrinths of a 200-year-old
network. The intricate, unfathomable layers of logic built up over a century,
borrowed from rainforest ecosystems, and woven together into beauty by millions
of active synthetic minds will say what redwoods say, only louder, more
convincingly: "Long before you were here, I am."

The technium is not God; it is too small. It is not utopia.
It is not even an entity. It is a becoming that is only beginning. But it
contains more goodness than anything else we know.

The technium expands life's fundamental traits, and in so
doing it expands life's fundamental goodness. Life's increasing diversity, its
reach for sentience, its long-term move from the general to the different, its
essential (and paradoxical) ability to generate new versions of itself, and its
constant play in an infinite game are the very traits and "wants" of the
technium. Or should I say, the technium's wants are those of life. But the
technium does not stop there. The technium also expands the mind's fundamental
traits, and in so doing it expands the mind's fundamental goodness. Technology
amplifies the mind's urge toward the unity of all thought, it accelerates the
connections among all people, and it will populate the world with all
conceivable ways of comprehending the infinite.

No one person can become all that is humanly possible; no
one technology can capture all that technology promises. It will take all life
and all minds and all technology to begin to see reality. It will take the
whole technium, and that includes us, to discover the tools that are needed to
surprise the world. Along the way we generate more options, more opportunities,
more connection, more diversity, more unity, more thought, more beauty, and
more problems. Those add up to more good, an infinite game worth playing.

That's what technology wants.















Teaser image by mbahareth courtesy of Creative Commons license. 


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Ayahuasca Benefits: Clinical Improvements for Six Months
Ayahuasca benefits can last six months according to studies. Read here to learn about the clinical improvements from drinking the brew.


Ayahuasca Culture: Indigenous, Western, And The Future
Ayahuasca has been use for generations in the Amazon. With the rise of retreats and the brew leaving the rainforest how is ayahuasca culture changing?


Ayahuasca Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
The Amazonian brew, Ayahuasca has a long history and wide use. Read our guide to learn all about the tea from its beginnings up to modern-day interest.


Ayahuasca and the Godhead: An Interview with Wahid Azal of the Fatimiya Sufi Order
Wahid Azal, a Sufi mystic of The Fatimiya Sufi Order and an Islamic scholar, talks about entheogens, Sufism, mythology, and metaphysics.


Ayahuasca and the Feminine: Women’s Roles, Healing, Retreats, and More
Ayahuasca is lovingly called “grandmother” or “mother” by many. Just how feminine is the brew? Read to learn all about women and ayahuasca.

Ketamine Guides

What Is the Standard of Care for Ketamine Treatments?
Ketamine therapy is on the rise in light of its powerful results for treatment-resistant depression. But, what is the current standard of care for ketamine? Read to find out.

What Is Dissociation and How Does Ketamine Create It?
Dissociation can take on multiple forms. So, what is dissociation like and how does ketamine create it? Read to find out.

Having Sex on Ketamine: Getting Physical on a Dissociative
Curious about what it could feel like to have sex on a dissociate? Find out all the answers in our guide to sex on ketamine.

Special K: The Party Drug
Special K refers to Ketamine when used recreationally. Learn the trends as well as safety information around this substance.

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

Ketamine vs. Esketamine: 3 Important Differences Explained
Ketamine and esketamine are used to treat depression. But what’s the difference between them? Read to learn which one is right for you: ketamine vs. esketamine.

Guide to Ketamine Treatments: Understanding the New Approach
Ketamine is becoming more popular as more people are seeing its benefits. Is ketamine a fit? Read our guide for all you need to know about ketamine treatments.

Ketamine Treatment for Eating Disorders
Ketamine is becoming a promising treatment for various mental health conditions. Read to learn how individuals can use ketamine treatment for eating disorders.

Ketamine Resources, Studies, and Trusted Information
Curious to learn more about ketamine? This guide includes comprehensive ketamine resources containing books, studies and more.

Ketamine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to ketamine has everything you need to know about this “dissociative anesthetic” and how it is being studied for depression treatment.

Ketamine for Depression: A Mental Health Breakthrough
While antidepressants work for some, many others find no relief. Read to learn about the therapeutic uses of ketamine for depression.

Ketamine for Addiction: Treatments Offering Hope
New treatments are offering hope to individuals suffering from addiction diseases. Read to learn how ketamine for addiction is providing breakthrough results.

Microdosing Ketamine & Common Dosages Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing ketamine.

How to Ease a Ketamine Comedown
Knowing what to expect when you come down from ketamine can help integrate the experience to gain as much value as possible.

How to Store Ketamine: Best Practices
Learn the best ways how to store ketamine, including the proper temperature and conditions to maximize how long ketamine lasts when stored.

How To Buy Ketamine: Is There Legal Ketamine Online?
Learn exactly where it’s legal to buy ketamine, and if it’s possible to purchase legal ketamine on the internet.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?
How long does ketamine stay in your system? Are there lasting effects on your body? Read to discover the answers!

How Ketamine is Made: Everything You Need to Know
Ever wonder how to make Ketamine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how Ketamine is made.

Colorado on Ketamine: First Responders Waiver Programs
Fallout continues after Elijah McClain. Despite opposing recommendations from some city council, Colorado State Health panel recommends the continued use of ketamine by medics for those demonstrating “excited delirium” or “extreme agitation”.

Types of Ketamine: Learn the Differences & Uses for Each
Learn about the different types of ketamine and what they are used for—and what type might be right for you. Read now to find out!

MDMA / Ecstasy Guides

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

MDMA & Ecstasy Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to MDMA has everything you want to know about Ecstasy from how it was developed in 1912 to why it’s being studied today.

How To Get the Most out of Taking MDMA as a Couple
Taking MDMA as a couple can lead to exciting experiences. Read here to learn how to get the most of of this love drug in your relationship.

Common MDMA Dosage & Microdosing Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing MDMA.

Having Sex on MDMA: What You Need to Know
MDMA is known as the love drug… Read our guide to learn all about sex on MDMA and why it is beginning to makes its way into couple’s therapy.

How MDMA is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make MDMA? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how MDMA is made.

Hippie Flipping: When Shrooms and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Explore the mechanics of hippie flipping and how to safely experiment.

Cocaine Guides

How Cocaine is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make cocaine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how cocaine is made.

A Christmas Sweater with Santa and Cocaine
This week, Walmart came under fire for a “Let it Snow” Christmas sweater depicting Santa with lines of cocaine. Columbia is not merry about it.

Ultimate Cocaine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
This guide covers what you need to know about Cocaine, including common effects and uses, legality, safety precautions and top trends today.

NEWS: An FDA-Approved Cocaine Nasal Spray
The FDA approved a cocaine nasal spray called Numbrino, which has raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company, Lannett Company Inc., paid off the FDA..

Cannabis Guides

The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Bioavailability
What is bioavailability and how can it affect the overall efficacy of a psychedelic substance? Read to learn more.

Cannabis Research Explains Sociability Behaviors
New research by Dr. Giovanni Marsicano shows social behavioral changes occur as a result of less energy available to the neurons. Read here to learn more.

The Cannabis Shaman
If recreational and medical use of marijuana is becoming accepted, can the spiritual use as well? Experiential journalist Rak Razam interviews Hamilton Souther, founder of the 420 Cannabis Shamanism movement…

Cannabis Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to Cannabis has everything you want to know about this popular substances that has psychedelic properties.

Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
Cannabis and Ayahuasca: most people believe they shouldn’t be mixed. Read this personal experience peppered with thoughts from a procannabis Peruvian Shaman.

CBD-Rich Cannabis Versus Single-Molecule CBD
A ground-breaking study has documented the superior therapeutic properties of whole plant Cannabis extract as compared to synthetic cannabidiol (CBD), challenging the medical-industrial complex’s notion that “crude” botanical preparations are less effective than single-molecule compounds.

Cannabis Has Always Been a Medicine
Modern science has already confirmed the efficacy of cannabis for most uses described in the ancient medical texts, but prohibitionists still claim that medical cannabis is “just a ruse.”

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